Coca-Cola knows branding. So does Apple, and Procter & Gamble. But these days, if you want to understand branding, perhaps the best authority is Kim Kardashian.
Jeetendr Sehdev, who grew up in England obsessing over Duran Duran and Michael Jackson, now works in celebrity public relations in Los Angeles, where he has pieced together six principles that have helped Kim Kardashian gain fame and influence. "She is a grand-scale indicator of how to behave if you want to achieve certain goals. Her stunning popularity represents a seismic shift in the way ideas catch on and how people, products and services can capitalize on this change to build stronger, more intimate connections with consumers. The megamix of vulnerability, narcissism, and sheer audaciousness that has propelled Kim from reality-show laughingstock to cover girl and social media superstar is a force to behold," he writes in The Kim Kardashian Principle.
Fittingly, the six principles can be remembered by the acronym SELFIE:
- Surprise: She shattered the mold for California female sex symbols, not being slim, blond and blue-eyed. “Ideas that want to break through in today’s crowded and disengaged marketplace have to follow Kim’s lead, finding their distinguishing characteristics and amping it up – even if it seems to go against marketing orthodoxy,” he says. She is unapologetically Armenian, even as other stars hide their ethnicity. She touts who she really is and what she really feels, which in particular appeals to authenticity-craving millennials, and she consistently surprises us, in a bid to gain and retain interest. You must be unique, innovative and surprising as well.
- Expose: He feels consumers are suspicious of caveats, half-heartedness, and pivots. By being relentlessly true to who they are, the Kardashians have been able to overcome potential scandals. Overexposed? Certainly. But he believes overexposing your ideas, products, or services allows audiences unfiltered access to your true intention. Freud said “out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.” Be raw, honest and real since overexposure only works when it’s the real deal.
- Lead: A shrewd businesswoman, she has remade the modern celebutante in her own image, he argues. That ambition can be dangerous – you will be mocked, as she has, and gain a legion of haters – but many have bonded with her and the businesses she has created. “Don’t tap into the existing culture – create it. Establish new norms and rally people to your vision. Show the world your version of the future,” he says.
- Flaws: She is flawed but so are you – and your products or services. Learn from the fact that she turned her flaws into assets. “She took her suburban sensibilities and lack of education and reframed them as modern sophistication and glamour,” he notes. Similarly, he feels any idea that wants to connect with consumers has to proudly and boldly showcase its flaws. Consumers are indifferent to – bored by – perfection. On the other hand, flaws can be compelling. So embellish them.
- Intimate: Her many roles, from fashionista to mother to cyber force with millions of followers had allowed her to create intimate relationships with those fans. Technology helps her and it can help you through allowing personalization of messages. He notes that Ms. Kardashian takes risks to put her audience first, an important element of the intimate bond she created. “Ideas that want to generate a similar level of intimacy will need to redefine old-school notions of exclusivity. One size no longer fits all, so make sure your ideas and messages are tailored and focus on providing practical value and added benefits,” he writes.
- Execute: She’s a whirlwind. She doesn’t wait for things to happen. She goes out and makes them happen, repeatedly. Using these principles, you can make things happen for your brand.
2. Leadership lessons from the Oscar fiasco
If Kim Kardashian offers marketing lessons, the mix-up over the Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards presents us with some leadership lessons.
"Few leaders are tested on as big a stage or under as bright a spotlight as Jordan Horowitz and Fred Berger, the producers of LaLa Land, who in a split-second decision, transferred their award to those who made Moonlight," consultant Julie Winkle Giulioni notes on her blog.
"How many of us could graciously pass off a prestigious new contract we'd been awarded to a competitor after being told 'it was a mistake' or generously and genuinely congratulate a colleague who received a job or promotion we were promised?"
The leadership qualities she feels they exemplified were:
- Mindfulness: Amidst the chaos they were perfectly present, able to process the confused messages they were receiving and respond appropriately.
- Fairness: They displayed reasonableness and justice, when others might have exploded in fury at an apparent injustice. They did what was right in the moment.
- Selflessness: They set aside their own interests to serve the greater purpose and needs of the evening.
- Generosity: Mr. Horowitz was extraordinary big-hearted when he said, “I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.”
Leadership development consultant Scott Eblin notes that when Mr. Horowitz was asked about his reactions, he spoke for all leaders: "Listen, I'm a producer. I gather things together and I change directions and I march things forward."
He saw the bigger picture, knowing he had to help the actual winners get their due. He took charge, stepping up to the microphone and saying what needed to be said, adapting to the situation. And he communicated with clarity, documenting the truth. He took the Best Picture card that said Moonlight from host Jimmy Kimmel's hand and held it up to the camera so everyone could see, putting to rest what could have been damaging questions of the truth in a Fake News era.
Mr. Eblin would award the Oscar for best leader to Jordan Horowitz. Ms. Giulioni says "in years to come, few will remember the film that won top honors this year; but everyone will remember the leaders who graciously relinquished an award and generously bestowed it upon others. At the end of the day, the real winners of this year's Oscars are all of us who were inspired by such a timely model of leadership."
3. Do you need another job?
Here are five signs you're too smart for you job, from HR consultant Liz Ryan writing in Forbes:
- You sit in meetings biting your lip because you know how to solve most of the problems being discussed but worry about getting a know-it-all reputation.
- You look for new learning experiences on the job and can’t find any. Indeed, when you look ahead at project plans for 2017 you don’t see any learning curves in your future.
- Co-workers seek your help on many different issues but your boss doesn’t view you as a subject-matter expert (or praise you for it).
- Even though your plate is full, nothing excites you.
- Your co-workers are happy as clams, leaving you the only person on the team secretly frustrated by the lack of stimulating work. When you introduce new ideas you get at best a lacklustre response to them.
- Here’s a challenging question to ask a job candidate: “Sell me on one idea, and then sell me on the opposite of that idea.”
- Consultant Art Petty says the best team coach he observed skipped the lectures on high performance teams, instead pushing him and his colleagues to modify two behaviour sets: How we talked and how we decided. “It turns out we knew how to do neither in spite of our endless blathering and the steady stream of decisions and subsequent reversals,” he says.
- Young consumers today don’t automatically think a high-end heritage brand is cool because it has a high price tag, a survey shows, and take a dim view of conspicuous consumption. They view travel and experiences as more valuable than costly jewelry, shoes, and bags.
- You routinely see (and perhaps use) these signs: “Sorry, we are closed,” or, more simply, “Closed.” Replace that, says marketing consultant Jeffrey Fox, with “See you tomorrow at 6:00 a.m.”
- If your neck is stiff from a day of work, you are probably slouching or looking down at the computer screen.